The Dutch House Book Review

Title:  The Dutch House
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Price:  Amazon Kindle $14.99
Pages:  Kindle Edition 352
Publication date:  September 24, 2019
Publisher: Haper

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House

I finished reading The Dutch House yesterday.  I will admit that I only started reading it because of the book club meeting at work coming up.  Unlike most of reviews I was not attracted to the cover at all.  I would probably picked it up at a bookstore but only because of the red color of the coat.  Red is an attention getter and that would probably had been the extent of it.  I would have put it back down and moved on to the next book on the shelf.

The first few pages were a struggle for me.  The writing is poetic and at the same time manages to be down to earth but the topic was not something I was able to get into at all. Again, had it not been for the meeting at work I would probably not have read it and DNF’d it almost immediately.  However, I am glad and thankful for that meeting which is scheduled for the 18th of this month.  I am actually really happy I finished the book.

This is my first novel by Ann Patchett.  I would love to say that it will not be my last but I am so afraid that the others will disappoint.  Not sure why but that always makes me nervous.  When I like a book so much I am always afraid to pick up another one for fear that it will disappoint.

The book follows a family in Philadelphia who lives in a very large, opulent home, The Dutch House.  The Dutch House is as much a character in the story as each of the people. in the story.  Danny, the young brother; Maeve, the older sister; Cyril, the father; and Elna, the mother.  There are also three maids/house keepers, Fluffly (her real name is Fiona); INSERT THE OTHER NAMES.  Prior to buying the house the family lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and I got the sense that they moved prior to Danny being born.  The mother never got used to the house and, in fact, always hated it and spent a lot of time away from home.  The children, Danny and Meave, were never told why.  The father was emotionally distant to the children and the mother, the children were told, moved to Indian and left them behind.  Meave and Danny were raised by the housekeepers/nannies at different periods of their lives.

The book starts with introducing the reader to Andrea.  Andrea it appears always wanted to get inside the house.  She is the father’s girlfriend  whom the father later marries.  Andrea has two daughters Bright and Norma.  The tension between the new wife and the children was palpable from the start and the reader is lead to believe that it’s all because Meave and Danny feel as if she’s replacing their mother.  The father seemed to just give in to all of Andrea’s whims, and I, as the reader couldn’t help but feel that he just did not do well with conflict and preferred to just let her take the lead.  I never felt as if he didn’t care.

What I Liked

The writing.  The writing has got to be the one thing in the book that will stay with me for a long time.  I am normally very much involved in the plot of any book.  I enjoy the ups and downs and most of the time if the plot doesn’t grab me I’m most likely not going to enjoy the book.  I think this was the reason I had such a hard time at start of the book.

There is no plot….. for more than half of the book I had no idea where we were going.  However, the writing was so perfect that I didn’t care.  For the first time I allowed myself to become immersed in a story even though I had no clue where it was taking me.  What I was supposed to find at the end.  I found myself not caring about that and being completely taken in by the people in the story.  Their lives….

Reading this book was like sitting and chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and talking about life.  The book IS about life.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the friendship between the two siblings.  Being the older sister of a brother and having grown up being best friends I couldn’t help but let myself wonder how sometimes as we grow up we let that friendship fizzle.  We’re still great friends but not like Danny and Meave.  I also was able to see how that type of friendship between siblings can sometimes be detrimental to other relationships in our lives and throughout the book the reader is reminded of that.

What drove me crazy

Danny drove me crazy sometimes.  He was completely focused on the past.  Why he didn’t do something or why someone did something to him.  He let his past dictate his present and eventually his future.  He was so passive that it drove me nuts and I even found myself sometimes silently yelling at him to grow up.

Although Meave also focused on the past she was able to let it go and forgive the people who had hurt her because she knew that not forgiving or letting go would ultimately ruin her.  I felt bad for Danny that he could not do the something but I wanted him to learn to just let go and live his life.

The other thing that sometimes was frustrating was not knowing.  The fact that the book just kept going and talking bout the lives of all these people made me crazy sometimes.  I wanted to know the point.  Perhaps the thing is that there is no point.  We are here, as readers, to just enjoy listening (reading) about this family who is in a way like so many of us and is going through a lot of the things most of us go through.  Marriage, death, sickness, raising children, not getting along with in-laws and then getting along with in-laws, love and hate.  I think that once I realized that the point was to not have a point I was find and the book was amazing after that.

Do I Recommend It?

Absolutely.  I think that if you can get past the fact that the story is about a family just like your or anyone else’s in the world and they are just trying to survive then I think this book will teach you a few things.  I think you will enjoy the adventure.  It’s slow to happen but it will happen…. Trust me.

Favorite Quotes:

I’m not sure if this was Danny or Meave while they are sitting in the car talking.  They used to enjoy sitting in Meave’s car.  The car was where they had their deepest conversations and sometimes where Danny learned the most about his family and why thing happened the way they did.  During one of the conversations one of them had the following to say about how the past sometimes colors the present and the way we see things.

But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.

Danny talking about his father.

He had protected me from the world so completely that I had no idea what the world was capable of.

Danny thinking about the past and how it affects the present.

There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.

I should…. Not a Book Review Again

I should be doing a book review now.  It’s time.  I finished reading the book over a month ago… I could be already two months and I have not taken the time to review it yet.  I’m not sure why and I’m not going to try to come up with excuses.  I could tell you that it’s because of NaNoWriMo which has been taken quite a bit of time and I could tell you, also, that it’s how busy my life has been … or better yet, I could tell you that I have decided to vlog my NaNo experience and the learning curve has been steep with YouTube so I’ve not had the time to dedicate to reviewing the book.

Although all those things are true.  I have entered NaNoWriMo and have been busy trying, and failing, to meet my word count every day, I could have written the book review for you.  I have been really busy at work but no more busy than I have been at any other point in my life.  I have also decided to vlog my NaNo participation…. Now this one is new and the learning curve is super steep.  I’ve never had so much trouble with my computer as when I’ve tried to get my videos from my library to iMovie.  I think I finally got it to work but don’t ask me how.

So, why am I not reviewing the book you might be asking.  Well, I don’t know.  I liked it.  I actually liked so much that I am thinking I want to write a historical novel.  I don’t feel prepared to do that yet but I have a setting and I have a thought but I’m just not good at romance and the kind of historical novels I like always have a little bit of romance in them.  Just a little, I hate all the gushy type of stuff.  Just a hint makes it so much more interesting.  Anyway, I’m going to learn and practice and perhaps I will write a historical romance novel one day.

So here is what I think the reason I have not reviewed the book is.  I’ve been lazy and focused on other projects.  Things that I need to do in order to survive.  Nope, I’m not being dramatic.  I’m being laid off from my job.  Yep….. the place I’ve been for the past 8 years and the place where I thought I was going to stay forever… well until retirement.  It was a shock, but not really.  I have known for a while, a year, but now it’s real.  I’m being shown the door and I’ve been having trouble figuring out how that makes me feel.  I’m ok.  I’m not suicidal or anything like that.  I’m a little angry and a little upset and going through all the stages of grief so if you just give me a little time and indulge me in what I choose to write I promise the review will come.

I will say that the book is great.  I really liked it so if you waiting for the review to know if you should buy it… there you go.  I think you should and I think you should read it.  Ohhh wait… I haven’t told you what book! Right.

The Carnegies’ Maid

The review will come in the next few days.  I promise!  I just need to get through some more stuff.  In the mean time I hope you are enjoying some of my posts about NaNoWriMo.  Please go visit my YouTube channel where I will giving you a glimpse of my life trying to get through NaNoWriMo and keeping a sense of humor.

thank you so much for understanding.  I’m going to go put in a few more words for my NaNo novel and then write a review….

Thanks again.  Glad you are still here with me.

Ana

#NaNoWriMo2019 Today was a struggle

Today, Day 3 of NaNoWriMo was a struggle.  I’m not sure what it was but the entire day I was feeling sort of blah and not in the mood to do anything . I’m going to theorize and say that it was the hour change that messed me up.  I got up super early and actually got quite a few words down which helped out towards the end of the day when I started feeling like I was running out of steam.

Here’s today’s video.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  How’s it going?  Let me know if you have any tips for when you feel blah and how to break through it.

Wish you all lots of luck and I’ll see you all soon.

Ana

What am I Writing – NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is upon us and as nervous as I was before it started I think my nerves have calmed down.  I figure out what I’ll be writing and now it’s just a time to find time to write.  Between day one and day two I wrote 4,495 words.  Then this happened 🙂

 

I thought I’d vlog my process and originally the idea was to upload it to Youtube but I’ve not been able to do that.  I want to have something to look back on and remember the process.  I don’t know about you but when I accomplish a goal I rarely think of about what it took to get me to that point.  There are some lessons learned and I can remember those but I imagine that watching the process will be an added bonus.

Today is day 3 and I have been sitting in front of my computer for a while now.  In my defense I have been fighting with iMovie and trying to figure out how to get this video on here and on Youtube.  I think I finally figured it out.  Good luck to me and if you’re writing during NaNoWriMo, good luck to you as well.  Please leave a comment below and let me know what you’re writing about.

See you next week.

Ana

 

Dressing Up for Halloween/Life

So, this will have absolutely nothing to do with writing.  Except that IT IS writing and therefore I guess it will count.  It’s probably just going to sound like a stream of consciousness to anyone who reads it because ….. well, that is exactly what it is.  

I woke up a half hour ago, made a cup of coffee and sent the obligatory email to work advising that I would be working from home because I woke up with a migraine and just took some medicine.  I’m not lying, this is actually the truth.  I did wake up a half hour ago and I had, actually still have a headache.  But I’m on of those annoying people who just wakes up naturally at a certain hour and resolves to be productive even if it’s super annoying.  Believe me, it’s annoying to me also.  I’d much rather be in bed, under the covers, sleeping.  But…. Here I am.

Anyway, having woken up and sent out the emails to the office and the team and not being able to sleep I sat, at the kitchen table with coffee in hand and thinking about the day ahead.  It’s halloween and every child, or at least most children, will be dressing up as whatever their little imaginations allowed them to imagine.  They will for one day become the fruits of their imaginations.  Why can’t we, as adults do this?

I’m looking forward to seeing them come to the door asking for candy.  I will admit that, as an immigrant, this tradition of trick or treating is still a bit odd to me but as a chocolate lover I completely understand it.  If this had been a thing where I come from, I would be such a happy kid on that day.  Chocolate is life.  You better believe that I would have it all mapped out where the best chocolate giver lived and I would make sure to hit those houses before anyone else.  Like I said…. Chocolate is life.

But I am here to talk about the kids and their imaginations.  Have you ever paid attention to how kids behave when they dress up for Halloween? They become the thing they imagine the thing or person to be.  Most little girls, not all, want to dress up as princesses…. I’m not really sure why but that’s not the point.  If you really look at a little girl who is dressed up as a princess her attitude completely changes. She walks a little taller and speaks a little different and there is a tone of importance in her voice.  She says please and thank you and her smile is a little different.  She becomes the person she imagines a princess to be.  Now think back to the little boy dressed as a monster or something like that.  You got it?  He comes to your door and sometimes doesn’t even ring the bill but knocks and as you open the door he looks up at you and he looks a little taller and growls at you.  You just saw this little boy yesterday running to get into mom’s car to be driven to school and he was just a little boy.  Today, as a monster, he is that monster.  When grabbing the candy from the skull or pumpkin bucket I have in my hands he will just reach in and take it.  He will say thank you but in a growly voice and he’s on to the his next “victim.” 

I say all this to say that clothes do in fact make the person.  These little people become what they imagine they are.  They take on the actions of a princess, a monster, a police person or whatever they decide to “become” for this one day of every year.  I think that in a way we do as well.  We become who we think we are.  As adults we become what we imagine we are.  The trouble with this is that others will then see us in that way and because this becomes a vicious cycle.  Sometimes it’s great and sometimes …. Well, not so much.  

Every morning we put on whatever clothes that reflect what we are feeling.  Have you ever said to yourself.  “I am so tired, I don’t feel like putting on heels…. I’m just going to wear my jeans and sneakers.”  Gosh, I say this almost every morning.  I AM so tired at 4:00 a.m.!!!!!!!!!! But that little girl dressed as a princess is a lot smarter than I am.  She is probably also tired from playing all day and not being able to sleep thinking about her dress and her beautiful tiara just a few feet away from her bed and how for one entire day she’s going to be a beautiful princess.   That little girl knows that in order to be believable as a princes she must look like a princess and as such she CANNOT go outside in public wearing anything but her long dress and her tiara.  How else will she be distinguishable from the other little girls?  

When did we, as adults forget how to be this little girl?  As I sit here at my kitchen table, with my now cold cup of coffee, I’m thinking that perhaps our clothes are more important than we give them credit for.  They are our coat of armor and our special power.  They are like Superman’s cape or tights (whatever you prefer).  They don’t make us who we are but they enhance who we are and they present to the world the best form of ourselves.  

Perhaps it’s time I bring this little girl back and go find my princess dress.  Perhaps I will regain my superpower!

Anyway, not writing related but I just needed to write.  Hope you enjoyed it and if you did please like and share with your friends.  I am trying to grow the blog and thinking about a podcast.

Thanks for listening

Ana   

#NaNoWriMo – What if You Don’t Like me…… What?

Some of you may have read my post last week where I, for a moment, was having a freak out moment.  My #NaNoWriMo month was apparently going to be taken over by the scrip writing fairies and I was about to go along with it.  Perhaps it was fear of not being able to accomplish the goal of 1,667 words per day, perhaps was the fear of not being good enough, perhaps it was a whole lot of both.

It’s true.  I, very often struggle with not feeling like I’m good enough.  I’ve heard that most people do.  However, some of us, like me, sometimes take that fear a bit farther and sabotage ourselves.

Need to be good at something

I was never one of those kids that was exceptional at anything.  I’m not sure I ever tried really hard.  I have always been afraid of trying hard and failing.   If I fail others won’t like me and worst yet, I won’t like myself.   Words and stories are easy for me and I rarely struggle to create something that people want read or listen to.  I CAN TELL A STORY and that makes me happy and proud.  IT MAKES ME LIKED.  It’s something I don’t want to lose.

#NaNoWriMo

#NaNoWriMo is a contest where you have to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  There will be winners and losers (I hate to say that word).  What if I am a loser?  What if I don’t achieve the goal of writing the 50,000 words? Not winning, to me,  will mean that I’m not good at writing and if I’m not good at this thing that I rely on for sanity what exactly am I good at?  I rather not know! So, when I realized that there was a chance (a very big chance) that I would not win this thing, I freaked out and began creating reasons as to why I couldn’t enter the contest.  It’s not me, really! Rules are rules.  I was hiding behind the rules.

I sabotage myself

I create reasons why I can’t.  I’m either too busy to do it or I’m not prepared or, in the case of #NaNoWriMo2019 my story changed from a novel to a screenplay and because a screenplay is never going to be 50,000 I cannot enter the contest.  That would not be fair to others.  If that sounds stupid or someone calls me out on my lie, I go a little further and say.  Ok I will write the screenplay but that takes me out of the contest and therefore I can’t lose.  Our brains are so good at making up their own stories.

This time something shifted.  I fooled my brain.  Within a few days of writing last week’s blog post I began to dream up a different story.  A story that means a lot to me and winning isn’t about the 50,000 words.  Winning is writing the story and getting it off of my chest.

So, here I am.  Ready (well, as ready as I can ever be) to enter #NaNoWriMo2019.  My first ever and I’m really excited….. Now if I can only figure out how to tell the story without really telling the story.

See you next week

Ana

On Writing that Novel…. Well….

So I may be writing a television script! Now What

I promised myself that this is where I would be taking accountability for this #NaNoWriMo adventure I’ve put myself on.  Like I don’t have enough adventures … I don’t…. but that’s not the point.  The actual point is that I don’t have the time…. I do….. but again, that’s not the point.

Last weekend, and let’s be clear, 2 weeks before the actual NaNoWriMo starts I basically abandoned the novel planning and decided that my story would be best told in a scrip format.

Really?  a script?  What do I know about script writing?  absolutely nothing …. then again, what do I know about novel writing.  So if I’m going to do this should I be going with my instincts?  considering that my experience with novel writing and script writing is about the same (nothing) then why not go with my instincts?

Having said all this, I am stressed out.  I have completely abandoned all the work that I put into planning a novel.  It was IT IS such a great idea.  It’s not wasted.  It’s still there and it will be there for when I’m ready to finally write it.  My stress is that I now have 2 weeks to start the writing marathons and I have not planned my anything.  I don’t even know how to begin writing.  WHAT?  I’m not even sure I have story!!!!

I told you, if you stick around this place you’ll always have an adventure around the corner.  What do you think will happen next week?  Will I have the script planned out and be ready to write?  What will the story be? I’m still not sure.

Ana

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 Am I a Planner or a Pantser?

My Scrivener File

Half of October is already gone and I’ve been working on planning and plotting my novel.  I’m not sure I’ve succeeded.  Well at least not in the way that I envisioned a “real planner” would.  perhaps I’m a combination of planner and a pantser

Planner v. Pantser

They are two approaches to first draft story writing. Why Planner and Pantser? Planners are writers who plan their novels, and Pantsers write their stories by the seat of their pants. Detailed outlines are the purview of Planners, typically completed before a single word of the actual story is set onto page.

Most of my life I have been a planner, I love my check lists and I live by my calendar.  I carefully make sure I have all my to-do’s organized and worked out every evening before bed and like most planners, I sleep much better when I know what is on my plate for the next day.  I know, of course, that things change and I am fully capable of changing course if an unexpected issue comes up.  Having said that, I was fully prepared to be the same way about my writing.

I should have known better!

Turns out, I’m not so much into knowing every single detail of my novel before I start writing it.  I tried, but besides feeling completely stressed out and uninspired, I achieved very little else in the past two weeks.

Last night, I sat at my laptop while watching some NaNoWriMo videos and began working in Scrivener in cork-board mode and the excitement of the story began to resurface.  So, for what I can tell, being a planner in some aspects of your life does not mean you will be a planner as a writer.  Although, I would not say that I’m a pantser either.

I have tried to write many novels.  I’ve had a million ideas for novels.  However, this is the first time I am actually going to put myself out there and write something.  I say all that to say that I’m not sure how or where I fit in and honestly I’m not sure I want to fit in any of the boxes already laid out for me.  So what, I’m not a planner and know every single little detail of the story before I write the story?  Also, so what I’m not a pantser and I can’t just sit at my computer and start typing something without some sort of “map” to show me at least a direction?  the point is to write and discover who I am as a writer.

NaNoWriMo is almost here and I’m super excited.

PrepTober for NaNoWriMo

Nanowrimo

A lot has happened this year.  Some things have been great and others… well, not so much.  I’m no longer bitter and right now I’m choosing not to fight the tides.  Going with the flow has allowed me the opportunity to relax and see into the future a little better.

I remember a conversation I had with my father at a pretty young age when I revealed the fact that I wanted to be a writer.  Perhaps a journalist…. the practical side of me knowing that a journalist would at least have a steady paycheck and that would make dad happy.  It didn’t!!!!! I remember being told that writing was a hobby, not a profession and that I needed to get a profession where I would be able to support myself.  Not bad advice but not great either.  I don’t remember specifics at this point in my life anymore.  I don’t know what happened once that advice was imparted but I believe that was the moment when I gave up my dreams of ever writing for a living.  I didn’t even give it another try and I think I put away all my writing tools to focus on making my father happy.

Don’t get me wrong, we arrived at an agreement.  I would not become a doctor nor a writer but I would be something that made both of us a little happy.  It’s been a good run and I’ve enjoyed the benefits of being very good at what I do.  However, as I said in the beginning of this post.  A lot has happened this year……. some great and some not so much.  In the midst of all the happenings I have set out a challenge for myself.  I have found the courage to at least try to do what I want to do.

Write….. I’m going to write!!!!!

I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.  If you don’t know what that is NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  In the month of November many published authors and some that are not published yet get together and form a community of writers who set goals for the month to write a novel or finish one… some make goals to edit a novel and get it ready to print and publish.  This year, I’ve decided to enter and write 50,000 words of a novel I’ve been “cooking” up in my head.  Through the month of November I will be writing and posting here with my progress.  I don’t particularly care if no one reads it.  This is for me, my dream, my life.  As I said, some things that happened were good and some not so much but they all have allowed me to see that living others’ dreams is worth it.  We all have disappointments but it’s far better to be disappointed having done something you loved and set your heart on fire than be disappointed having lived someone else’s life

A lot has changed this year…… and this is not the only dream I’m working on.

Here we go!!!!!

 

Book Review: The Westside by W.M. Akers

Unknown-3

Finally….. I finished reading the book and my original thoughts still stand.  I’m giving this book 3 out of 5 stars.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

I finished the book earlier this week…. hmm maybe even late last week and I wanted to sit with my thoughts before I posted a review.  I wanted to make sure I liked it or didn’t like it and I’m still not 100% sure I am fully comfortable with my decision.

The writing was great.  I enjoyed and connected with the way the author wrote the story. there are so many quotes in the book that resonated with me  and that gave the story that extra punch that I had to stop tagging pages or I would be tagging every single page. I thought the premise of the story was interesting and it actually was what sold me on this book.  The fact that little mysteries are most often than not the ones that are worth solving.  Well, yeah, that and the fact that it’s set in New York in the 20’s….. What more can one wish for?  However, that’s where I break paths with the book.

Although the premise of the story was great I felt confused reading it.  I was constantly being pulled out of the world trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.  It felt that every time I was immersed in the world and in the action, something would be pulling me right back out.  There were characters that were introduced whom I had no connection with and they appeared from out of nowhere.  There were things going on that I’m not sure added anything to the story and, in fact, they wound up only confusing me even more.  I actually started to feel that it was me.  Perhaps it’s not the right book for me or maybe not the right time for me to be reading this book.  This may be one of those books that I will go back to reading again and again and each time I’ll learn something new.  Maybe I do have to read it again.  I’ll have to give myself some time because right now the confusion is still very raw and I’m not sure I’ll give it the honest chance that the writing deserves.

I will be looking for more books from this author.  The writing was amazing …. here is an example from the first page of the book:

I stole a glove.  It dangled off a table in a decrepit leather shop in Thieves Makes on the East side of Manhattan in sweltering late September 1921, and it was in my bag before I even knew it was in my hand.

This sentence put me in the shoes of the protagonist.  I could feel the heat, I could see the glove and I understood how something just is done without a thought.  It just appeared in the bag….. even before she thought about it.

There are many other passages like this and these were the moments when I was taken to the world where Gilda Carr, our protagonist lives.  This was also the world where I needed to stay in order to understand her and everyone around her but the confusion and the need to bring myself back into the world was jarring.

I’m not giving up.  There’s gotta be something I’m missing.

I’m sorry I didn’t like the book more than I did.

XoXo

Ana